1 MVP better than 2
HOUSTON—Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points to propel the Bucks to a 117-111 victory in Houston on Thursday, spoiling the debut of newly formed Rockets star duo James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
In a battle featuring the last three NBA Most Valuable Players, it was reigning MVP Antetokounmpo who emerged the winner, notching the first triple-double of the season before he fouled out with just over five minutes remaining.
By then, the Greek superstar had achieved double digits in three key statistical categories: 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. His 20 second-half points helped the Bucks rally from a 16-point third-quarter deficit.
Antetokounmpo became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1966 to post a 30-plus point triple-double in his opening game of a season.
But he said team effort was the key to the comeback win.
“We stayed together,” Antetokounmpo said. “Even though we faced adversity and we weren’t playing our best basketball in the first quarter and second quarter we came out, we were focused. We were able to move the ball and execute.
“My team without me did a great job,” added Antetokounmpo, whose departure with his sixth foul at 5:18 remaining—and the Bucks up by six—appeared to open the door to the Rockets.
Houston scored the next five points, Westbrook adding four with a three-pointer and a free throw to trim the deficit to 101-100.
But the Rockets, who brought in 2017 MVP Westbrook in the offseason to play alongside their 2018 MVP Harden, couldn’t get ahead.
Westbrook finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.
Harden’s 19 points owed more to his perfect 14-of-14 finish at the free-throw line than his two-of 13 shooting. He added seven rebounds and 14 assists.
While the Bucks looked a team perfectly capable of repeating their 60-win campaign of last season, the long-dominant Golden State Warriors got a taste of what could be a tough road ahead as they fell, 141-122, to the ascendant Los Angeles Clippers.
In the first game in their glitzy new $1.4-billion Chase Arena in San Francisco, the Warriors—now without departed free agent Kevin Durant and injured Klay Thompson—were no match for a Clippers team bolstered this offseason by the arrival of Kawhi Leonard—who was on the Toronto Raptors team that beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals in June.
Atlanta’s Trae Young opened his second NBA season with a 38-point outburst for the Hawks in a 117-100 victory over the Pistons in Detroit.
Young said he was “a lot more comfortable” than he was coming into his rookie season a year ago. —AFP